I always have two calendars on my desk, one from Colombia and the other one from the U.S. Every year my parents bring me one because it has all the Colombian holidays and other important dates. I’ve been living here for almost 7 years, but always half of my mind and heart is in my country; the other half looks at the U.S calendar while I’m at work.
Just a while ago I was looking at the U.S calendar planning my schedule for next week and I realized September 21st is next week, the day the United Nations declared as “World Peace Day”. I looked at my other calendar and that day was not marked as a special date. Neither one of my calendars has World Peace Day, isn’t this day an important date for all of us?
Then…I asked- What defines peace and why should World Peace Day be so important?
Peace for me is safety. My country has been living in civil war for more than 50 years, 5 decades and a lot of generations not knowing what peace is; violence victims growing up without their families because either they have been murdered or kidnapped. Colombia has 3.3 million Internal Displaced Persons-IDP (one of the highest ones with Afghanistan); most of them are farmers who have left their homes behind because the guerrilla has threatened them and to live in the countryside is not secure anymore.
Peace for one of our participants from Congo (DRC) could be silence. They are not surrounded by the sound of bullets anymore, the yelling of the militia groups taking away the women from their husbands, or kids crying because her mother or sisters have been raped and left behind. Sexual violence in Congo is one of the biggest weapons rebel groups use to terrorize the population. Fifteen years of Civil War and over 1 million of refugees.
Peace for a refugee from Burma could be freedom of speech. Last year I watched “Burma VJ” a documentary about how the military regime has forbidden the Burmese to pronounce against the military junta. A group of people decided to take action and begin to film how government officials will immediately break out any attempt of meeting or protest rally. The Buddhist monks decided to be part of the demonstrations and a group of them were massacred, others left the country and now are on exile. Twenty-Eight years not allowing the Burmese to express themselves, 400,000 refugees in 2009.
We live in peace here, but for me and other refugees there’s no peace of mind because we are always thinking about what is happening in our countries. We spend our days reading the news and finding out what the government, NGO’s, and the United Nations are doing to make this possible. There is always hope and there is a special day where we can raise our voices together and claim for safety, silence, and freedom.
You won’t see September 21st marked in your calendar either, but make that a special day with a minute of silence, a prayer, a donation or whatever peace means for you. All the persons who are suffering and are victims of violence will appreciate you have not forgotten this day.
Join http://www.peaceoneday.org/en/welcome on September 21st and become part of the celebration